“Harry, the ball’s in five days. We can’t be the only guys who don’t have a date!”
“I know, Ron,” Harry sighed. “But if it weren’t for bloody Cedric Diggory, I’d already have a date.”
Harry and Ron were sitting in the common room after dinner. The Yule Ball was coming up in five days and neither of them had managed to successfully get a girl to go with them. Harry had asked Cho between classes just that day, but she had rejected him, as she had already agreed to go with Cedric. Cedric Diggory… Harry had just started to like him, too, maybe even be friends with him, despite the fact that Cedric seemed to be “everyone’s favorite champion,” seeing as he was handsome, athletic and smart. Ron, meanwhile, in a moment of madness, had asked Fleur Delacour. Of course, Fleur had rejected Ron, looking rather disgusted while she did it. Harry had already thought of asking Hermione to the ball, but he didn’t really like that idea either. Not only would Ron kill him for trying, Harry also didn’t want Hermione to think that he had any romantic feelings for her. He was sure that she was waiting for Ron to ask her, even shooting down Viktor. Then, there was that other option…
At that moment, he saw a couple of third year girls come into the common room, closely followed by Hermione. She had, naturally, been in the library. Not that she had that much homework to do with the Christmas holidays coming up, but she took SPEW very seriously. Actually, a little too seriously… Harry wouldn’t really mind that much if she didn’t keep trying to advertise elf rights in the common room and trying to get people to join up . Luckily, since Harry was a school champion in the Triwizard Tournament, and was still trying to figure out the clue to the second task, she had stopped bothering him. Of course, this meant that she started bothering Ron about it.
“I sold three more badges today,” Hermione said brightly. “I think more people are starting to get interested in house elf rights!”
“No, they’re not,” Ron laughed. “They’re only paying you to stop you from bothering them!”
“Very funny, Ron. Ha, ha.”
“Oh, come on, Hermione. You don’t honestly think you’re going to get somewhere with this SPEW thing.”
“It’s not SPEW, Ron!,” Hermione angrily retorted. “Just because you have medieval views doesn’t mean we all share them!”
Ron spat back a bitter reply, and the two argued at it for over an hour before Ron, too tired to continue arguing further, went to his bed.
“I can’t believe you two,” Harry said to Hermione.
“Never mind about us,” Hermione said, sitting down a little wearily. “Do you have a date to the ball, Harry?”
He shook his head.
“What happened? I thought you wanted to ask Cho? Did she reject you?”
“Yeah. She’s already going with” -Harry paused to stop himself from cursing- “Cedric Diggory.”
Hermione laughed. “Jealous, much?”
“You’re one to talk,” Harry retorted. “Or did you reject Viktor Krum for no reason at all?”
Hermione’s smile slid from her face instantly. “Do you think he’s ever going to ask me?”
“Who is?” Harry said, playing a little dumb.
“Oh, please, Harry. You’ve known us for more than three years.”
Harry sighed. “It’s not like he doesn’t want to ask you, Hermione. He’s just scared of rejection. He thinks that if you say no, your friendship would be ruined. And, it’s Ron, Hermione. It’s obviously a big step for him. Do you want me to talk to him?”
“Maybe. Just don’t make me come off as needy and desperate,” Hermione said with a small smile. “But never mind me now. You’re the important one at the moment. You’re school champion, you have to open the dance. It would be rather embarrassing if you showed up alone.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” grumbled Harry. “I’m having nightmares about the stupid thing. I’d much rather take another go with that Hungarian Horntail than the ball.”
“Come on, there must be someone you want to go with. And don’t start about Cho again,” she added warningly.
“Well, I thought of asking you,” he admitted. “You know, as a friend. But then Ron would kill me of course. Then, there’s…”
“Well, it’s – ”
“It’s Ginny, isn’t it?”
Harry gave Hermione a wan smile. “Nothing goes past you, does it, Granger?”
“Do you like her?” Hermione asked.
“Well… I guess,” Harry said. He then admitted, “I’ve never really spent much time with her.”
“I think it’s a great idea!” Hermione exclaimed. “You shouldn’t worry about Ron. Of course he won’t like it, you’ve seen how overprotective he is. He’ll come around, though. Eventually. And I think you’ll really like Ginny if you get to know her. Once you get past her shell.” She smirked a little at this.
“Maybe you’re right. I’ll ask Ginny tomorrow. I just have to make sure Ron isn’t around,” Harry laughed. All of a sudden, it seemed as if a large weight had come off his chest. At least, before he heard a voice.
“Excuse me? You wouldn’t happen to be talking about the Yule Ball now, would you?”
Fred and George Weasley stood there staring at him with two identical grins.
“Oh, great,” Harry grumbled. “Always good to keep things private.”
“Don’t worry, Harry. You have our blessing. At least we know she’ll be with a gentleman,” George smirked. “But I wouldn’t wait too long to ask her. She’s far too popular with them teenage boys, our little sister is.”
“She’s not going with anyone, is she?” Harry panicked a little at this thought. To his relief, Fred replied, “Nah, not that I know of. Actually, she wouldn’t tell us.” Fred grinned a little before saying, “Alright, we’ll leave you two kids alone. We have important business matters to discuss with Lee. Goodnight!” and walking up the stairs.
It wasn’t five minutes after Fred and George had left that Ginny joined Harry and Hermione. “Hi, guys,” she said brightly. “What’s up?”
“Well, I’m off to bed,” Hermione said rather suddenly. “Goodnight!” With that, she promptly walked up the stairs to the girl’s dormitories.
“Well, that was weird,” Ginny said. She couldn’t help but feeling slightly uneasy, all alone with Harry. Hermione had convinced her to be herself around Harry, but Ginny couldn’t help feeling a little nervous as Harry stammered, “Er, well, I was thinking – ”
“Yeah?” Ginny couldn’t help but notice that Harry seemed quite flustered.
“Are you – ,” he stuttered. “Are you going to the Yule Ball, Ginny?”
“No,” she sighed. “I’m not allowed. Unless someone older asks me, at least. And that’s not likely to happen, so…”
“Oh,” Harry said, as his face turned fiery red. “I was thinking, maybe you’d want to go with me.”
“You want to go with me?” Ginny asked. Oh my god! She couldn’t believe she could have been so oblivious. Hermione would have caught on instantly. She saw a whole web of future outcomes, some of them ending with a happy marriage, and others with a rather hard breakup. She sat there silently, thinking, for a while.
Harry looked rather dejected at Ginny’s lack of response. “Well, yeah, if you don’t feel like it… don’t worry about it.”
“No!” she exclaimed, snapping out of her train of thought. “I’d love to go with you!”
“Great,” Harry beamed. “I’ll meet you in the common room at eight then?”
“It’s a date.” Ginny smiled a little as she watched Harry walk up the stairs.
When Harry woke up later that morning, his dreams full of Hungarian Horntails, angry Rons, and a Yule Ball that ended in humiliation, he lay on his bed for quite a long time, staying completely still with his eyes wide open. Harry felt uneasy about how Ron would react if – no, when – he found out about the date.
I should’ve talked to him first, he thought. Harry knew he wouldn’t jeopardize his friendship with Ron for anything. Ron had been his first real friend, as Harry had never had any friends before he came to Hogwarts. They’d had their ups and downs, of course, but Ron had almost always been there for him, sticking up for his best mate.
I’ll go talk to him later, Harry thought. I don’t think he’ll kill me that fast.
Harry dressed rather slowly and walked downstairs to the common room, expecting an empty room. However, he spotted an extremely nervous Ron sitting in an armchair near the dead fire.
“Hey, Ron,” Harry said, nervous as well. “What are you doing up so early?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Ron replied, grinning broadly and looking rather pleased with himself. “I’m waiting for Hermione, actually. I decided I’m going to ask her to the ball!”
“Shocking,” Harry said.
“What do you mean? You think she’ll say yes?” Ron said, immediately nervous again.
“You’re kidding me, right?,” Harry laughed. “You guys have been circling around each other for months like vultures. Why do you think she turned down Viktor?”
“Yeah, well…” Ron then abruptly changed the topic, surprising Harry. “What about you then? You’ll have to ask someone soon or everyone will be taken. And you can’t afford to show up by yourself. You’re a champion, you have to open the ball!”
“I know already,” Harry exclaimed. “Hermione told me! And I asked someone already. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about it…”
“Why? Who is it? It’s not Hermione, is it?”
“No, you git. Er, well, it’s Ginny,” Harry mumbled. Ron looked flabbergasted.
“Ginny? Why would you want to go with Ginny?”
Harry frowned at him a little, and said, “Because she’s pretty nice, and cool to hang with, and…"
"Annoying? Loud? Nosey?"
Harry laughed. "If you say so. So you don't have a problem with this?"
"No, I don't think so." Ron said slowly. He looked at Harry inquisitively. "Do you like her?"
"Well, of course I like her. We're friends."
"You know what I mean."
"It's not that I know her that well, but yeah, she's cute. Maybe once we get to know each other better."
Ron looked as if he was wondering what it would be like if his best mate and his little sister were dating. He wasn’t sure he would like it too much, but Harry was only fourteen after all and Ginny was even a year younger than him. It was not like they would have a very physical relationship if it ever came to that. Besides her school girl crush on Harry, Ginny had never showed much interest in the opposite sex. But Ron knew his sister had reached an age where she would begin dating. He didn’t think he would ever approve of any guy who would want to be with her. But if she had to date, then she could better be with Harry. Ron knew his best friend would never do anything to hurt a girl, especially when that girl was a Weasley. He knew his family meant the world to Harry and was much more family than his own.
Chapter 2: Christmas Day
When Harry awoke on Christmas Day, the usual feeling of Christmas joy and excitement was marred by nervousness and anxiety. Not only did he have to dance in front of three famous Wizarding schools, he had a date with his best mate’s sister. If anyone would have told him that this was going to happen months earlier, he would have declared them mad. Although Ginny was cute, she wasn’t really a pretty girl, like Cho Chang or the Patil sisters. Not that it mattered to Harry. He had realized that if he’d gone with a girl like that, he would never be at ease, and both his and his date’s night would have been ruined. He lay awake for another half hour, pondering about how the day would be, before a pillow hit him rather hard in the face.
“Merry Christmas!” Ron shouted. “Come on, move your arses! There’s presents!”
Neville, Dean, and Seamus rather grumpily got out of bed, but still looked eagerly at the pile of presents at the foot of each bed.
“God, Harry, you’re a life saver! This must be the best present you’ve ever gotten me!” Ron exclaimed as he held up the dress robes Harry and Hermione had got him.
“Oh, they match your eyes, Ron! You’ll look so handsome!” Seamus gushed in a falsetto.
“Shut it, Seamus.”
The morning passed by quickly in the common room, where they enjoyed their presents while hanging out with Hermione, Parvati, and Lavender. Harry noticed that the people in his year got along much better than other years. Parvati and Lavender had always distanced themselves, thinking that Hermione was weird for hanging out with boys, while Neville had been an outcast to others because of his low self-esteem and inability to form friendships. The other guys had taken him in, and although they laughed at his clumsiness and awkwardness, they would always stand up for him.
The entire group went down to lunch together, and had a massive snowball fight with Ginny, the twins, Lee Jordan, and the Creevey brothers afterwards. Truly, it was the best Christmas Harry had had at Hogwarts, even better than his first year.
“What’s McGonagall doing by the lake?” Colin suddenly asked.
Professor McGonagall seemed to be enjoying an afternoon walk around the lake, warmly clothed with a tartan scarf and hat. She was facing away from the group, walking slowly along the bank of the lake.
“10 galleons says that I can hit her from here,” Fred whispered.
“No way,” Seamus said. “She’ll bury you alive, mate. No one has the guts to do something like that to McGonagall. Not even you.”
“I smell a wager!” the twins sang.
“If I hit her, you wear Ron's dress robes to the ball tonight. To be clear, his original dress robes.”
“Forget it,” Seamus spat. “I've got a date with Padma Patil. Do you know how long I've been looking forward to this?”
“Weren’t you just so sure of yourself?”
“All right, then. . It's a bet. . But you can't use your wand, alright?”
“Deal,” Fred said with a devilish grin.
“You're not actually going to do this, are you?” Hermione said, more than a little frightened.
“Hermione. We have a chance to see Seamus wear those ghastly dress robes in front of the whole school. It's too beautiful to give up now, isn't it?” He made a snowball, carefully aimed, threw, and hit Professor McGonagall right on the back of her head. Absolutely livid, she marched up to them, and shouted, “What do you think you are doing? If you want to badger each other with your childish behavior, then go ahead! But this is a show of severe disrespect! From my own house, as well! Now, who threw that snowball?”
“I did, Professor,” Fred admitted rather proudly. “It was for a bet, you see.”
“Of course you did,” McGonagall snapped. “Well, if that bet is worth a month’s worth of detention, then good for you. If not, too bad.”
With that, she marched back to the castle, still fuming and muttering under her breath.
“It certainly was,” Fred muttered back. He suddenly turned and shot a devilish grin at a pale Seamus.
“She didn't take points from Gryffindor,” Harry noticed.
“She didn't?” George seemed rather surprised. “Would she really be getting a soft spot?”
“Speak for yourself. I just got detention for a month!” Fred shouted. “But that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for the show we can all enjoy tonight.”
“Honestly Ron, you're more nervous than I am. You don't have to open the ball in front of the whole school!” Harry exclaimed. Ron had been pacing around the boy’s dormitory for the past hour, nervously fiddling the neck-piece of his dress robes.
“Harry, if tonight doesn't go well, It’ll never work out between me and Hermione. And, our friendship would be ruined, too!”
“Nonsense,” Harry said firmly. “You guys have been best friends for over three years. That doesn't just end because of a bad date. Relax, she likes you. Just be nice and don't do anything stupid. Well, too stupid.”
Ron grinned and visibly relaxed. “You make sure you behave yourself around my sister, Potter. Or I might have to reconsider my decision about not killing you. Now, come on, let's go.”
Laughing, the two friends descended the stairs to see Hermione and Ginny already waiting for them. Hermione was wearing nice periwinkle dress robes that accented her figure. Her hair was tied elegantly in a knot. Even Harry had to admit that she looked rather pretty. It was a spectacular change compared to the Hermione who carried a dozen books over her shoulder. Ginny was dressed in stunning light green dress robes that complimented her long red hair. She smiled at Harry, who was happy to see she didn't look too nervous at all. They went down to the Great Hall together, where they met a still irate Professor McGonagall at the entrance.
“Good evening, Potter, Miss Weasley. If you could please wait with the other champions. Mr. Weasley and Miss Granger, you may proceed into the Great Hall.”
Harry and Ginny joined Cedric and Cho. Harry was surprised and pleased to notice that he didn’t mind Cho and Cedric together. He actually managed to have a civil conversation with the two, but were snapped out of it by the arrival of Krum and – was that Eloise Midgen?
“You have to be kidding me,” Harry muttered. Cedric looked just as flabbergasted as he was.
“Hey. Just because she’s a bit heavier than most other girls doesn’t make her ugly. I think it’s great that Krum asked someone that’s not a perfect model. Heaven knows that he could have asked whoever he wanted. Except Hermione, that is,” Ginny retorted.
“Well, at least he doesn't go for looks alone, you've got to give him that.” Harry smiled at his own words.
“You can say that again,” Cedric mumbled.
“Oh don't be such a prat, Cedric,” Cho scolded.
“Hello, everyone.” Fleur Delacour had arrived and by her side was none other than…
Harry couldn't imagine how on earth Fred Weasley got Fleur Delacour to go to the ball with him. "What did you do, Fred? Drugged her with a love potion?"
"Who knows", Fred grinned. "Either way, I'm getting lucky tonight."
"Oh Fred", Fleur said. "You are such a show-off. We came here as friends", she said to Harry. "I have a boyfriend back in France you see, but he couldn't be here. So I wanted to go with someone I can have fun with without obligations. And that was harder to find than I imagined. No offence." She smirked at Fred. Harry noticed that Fleur was a lot less arrogant than he first thought. It was the first time she was actually having a real conversation with him and she didn't seem haughty or condescending at all.
"You tricked me!" , Fred yelled and everyone laughed. Than the doors of the Great Hall slowly opened again. This was the signal for the champions and their partners to enter the Hall. When they walked through the doors everyone got to their feet and applauded them. Harry saw that Ginny's face reddened a bit. He didn't really like all the attention either, but of the both of them he had the most experience with it. He grabbed her hand and together they walked to the long table where the champions and their partners would dine with the members of the jury: Albus Dumbledore, Igor Karkaroff, Olympe Maxime, Ludo Bagman and Barty Crouch. Only the last one was seemingly unable to come, because his place was taken by his assistant, Percy Weasley. Percy waved at Harry and Ginny.
"Oh damn", Ginny grumbled. "Now we have to go and sit with him."
Harry smiled, but led her to the seats next to Percy. Ginny went to sit next to Percy and Harry sat on the other side of Ginny. He was happy to see that the other place next to him was occupied by Albus Dumbledore. At least they would have some interesting dinner conversation.
"Good evening Harry, Ginny", the headmaster said. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Professor", they replied.
Dinner passed quickly and soon enough it was time for them to open the dance. Dumbledore smiled and winked at him when Harry and Ginny got up and moved over to the dance floor. Harry looked rather pale by the time they got there. Ginny smiled. "Don't worry, Harry, I'll lead. Just follow me, okay?"
The music started and Harry and Ginny danced for a while, quickly followed by other teachers and students. After a couple of songs they went to sit down and have a butterbeer.
"You're a good dancer", said Harry. I wouldn't have imagined you to be that good. No offence.", he quickly added.
"None taken." Ginny laughed. "My mom learned me when I was a little girl. She thinks a lady must know her way on the dance floor. I really loathed it. Now it's okay, but when I was smaller all I wanted to do was play outside and climb trees. I think mom was kind of disappointed at that. There have been generations Weasleys without a girl in the family, but my mom really wanted a daughter. Then she had to wait so long for it and have six sons first and when she finally had a daughter, she didn't like any girlish stuff." She laughed. "I still don't like to dance very much. I guess that's a bit of the rebellion left in me."
"She didn't let you play outside then?"
"Oh of course she did, but she would fret about it. And flying was out of question. I still don't have my own broom. Though that never stopped me before."
"What do you mean?"
"Since I was nine I have been breaking into our broomshed and nick my brothers' brooms to practice.* I've gotten pretty good actually. Well, I think so." She added modestly.
Harry couldn't help but smile. There sure was more to this girl than you would think. "You want to play Quidditch?"
"Yeah, I'd like to play Chaser, but well, I'll have to wait until Angelina and Alicia are graduated of course. Maybe in fifth year. I think I wouldn't be a bad Seeker too, but we all know that that spot's not going to open up soon." She smiled at him. "I honestly have never seen a Seeker as good as you are, Harry. And that's saying something. I've seen Charlie play for years and McGonagall told him he could play for England if he wanted. He got a lot of offers from professional teams, but he told them all to sod off and went to Romania to tame dragons." She laughed out loud.
Harry reddened a bit at her compliment of his Seeker skills. For some reason it was a lot different when Ginny complimented him than when Ron or Hermione or Hagrid did it. When he heard her laugh, his stomach gave a little jolt. He had never seen this side of her before. Of course he always knew her. He had talked to her, hung out with her. But Ron and Hermione or Fred and George were always with them. This is the first time they really spend time alone together. Harry was happy to see that she didn't cramp up like she used to do when she was around him.
After a while, Ron and Hermione came and joined them. Over time, more couples came to sit with them. Fred and Fleur, Cho and Cedric, Lavender and Dean, Parvati and Colin, George and Angelina and Neville, who was with a third year Ravenclaw named Luna Lovegood. Harry had never spoken to her, but he had heard that people called her Loony Lovegood and that a lot of people thought she was a little crazy. Harry saw Lavender raise her eyebrows a bit, but she didn't say anything. He was glad. He knew Neville had had a hard time finding a date. Not because he was that unpopular, but because he simply was too nervous to ask someone. He actually seemed to have fun with Luna, so everyone accepted her without further questions.
"So anybody seen Seamus yet?", Fred asked. "I'd love to see how those fashionable robes look on him."
"He did put them on right? It's one thing making a fool out of yourself for a bet, but not living up to it is just dishonourable.", George laughed.
"Oh he put them on alright", Dean said, shaking with laughter. "Didn't stop nagging about it too." The whole group erupted into laughter.
"I think we're missing something here", Cedric said with raised eyebrows. Cho nodded. Ron quickly told the story of the what would later be known as the snowball-incident. Then Cedric, Cho and Fleur started laughing too and even Luna gave a dreamy smile. As if on cue Seamus and Padma joined the group at their table.
"What you're laughing about?", he asked. The whole table erupted into new fits of laughter when they saw Seamus in Ron's old dress robes. "Oh god, you're the death of me Weasley, with your bloody bet!"
Professor McGonagall, who passed their table at that moment came just in time to hear the last few words of his sentence. "She examined Seamus' outfit with raised eyebrows and asked: "I assume that this is the bet that sent a snowball to my head?"
"Yes, Professor", Fred replied with a wide grin, quite proud about the outcome of his prank.
Harry was extremely surprised when he saw the corner of McGonagall's mouth twitch as if she was withholding herself from laughing. She nodded quickly, mumbled a: "Enjoy the festivities", and walked on.
"I'm telling you, she's getting a soft spot for us", George said. "I swear she was cracking up inside."
"Well yeah, look at him", Harry contributed. "How could she not be. I think even Snape would be laughing if he saw him like that."
"Thanks, Potter", Seamus retorted. "I'll take that in mind for the second task. You've got yourself another supporter, Diggory."
The evening passed by quickly in enjoyable conversation and playful banter. At a quarter to midnight, Harry whispered to Ginny: "You want to go for a walk in the garden? We still have fifteen minutes." Ginny accepted gladly and they said their goodbyes to their friends before leaving. Harry noticed Ron looking at them with a raised eyebrow. He noticed Ginny had seen it too, but she didn't say anything so he didn't bring it up either.
They walked slowly through the garden that was specially installed for this evening. They finally got to a rest on a bank overlooking magnificent giant ice sculptures. They sat and talked. And talked. Harry told her more than he had ever even told Ron or Hermione. He told about his life with the Dursleys, his adventures in his first year with Quirrell and the Philosopher's Stone, since Ginny hadn't been in school yet then. He told her about visits with Hagrid. About dragons and Acromantulas. About Dementors and illegal visits to Hogsmeade. About his fear that Voldemort was getting stronger and he would maybe find a way to come back. The only subject he stayed clear of was Sirius. Not because he didn't trust Ginny, but because he didn't know how she would react and he didn't want to spoil this evening. Ginny told him in turn about growing up at The Burrow. About being overshadowed by six older brothers and always getting second hand stuff. About being over-protected by her brothers and her mom. About her antics with the twins, who had always been her favourite brothers. About writing to Tom Riddle and awakening in the Chamber with Harry leaning over her, covered in blood and with a sword in his hand. About her school crush she had in her first year and getting over that crush. About getting herself to be herself around him…
"It's beautiful here", Ginny whispered."
"Yes it is". Ginny turned and saw Harry gazing at her. Harry was trying to think clearly but he didn't seem to find more words to say. He had imagined a nice evening with her but he hadn't imagined he would like her this much. He thought he had known Ginny Weasley. She was Ron's little sister, a friend. But after tonight he had to admit that he had known almost nothing about her. He didn't even know that her real name was Ginevra. "But don't you ever call me that", she had laughed.
"I, I really had fun tonight, Harry", she muttered.
"Me too", he answered. "I really like you". He slowly leaned in towards her. Ginny held her breath.
"What on earth do you think you two are doing here?", exclaimed a voice. Harry turned around quickly and saw Professor McGonagall glaring at them. "It's two o'clock in the morning. Explain yourselves, both of you!"
"Er, we, er", stuttered Harry.
"We lost track of time Professor", Ginny answered quickly.
"Lost track of time? You should have been in bed two hours ago!"
"We were just talking Professor, really. We're very sorry."
"You will serve detention with me for three whole weeks. And you can consider yourselves lucky with that punishment. Now off to bed, both of you. And no dawdling!"
"Yes, Professor." They quickly climbed the stairs to Gryffindor Tower. "Stupid", Harry said. "We should have brought my Invisibility Cloak."
"Well, it's not that bad. Could have been much worse. Imagine Snape catching us. Maybe we'll be allowed to serve our detention together. Did you notice? She didn't take points from Gryffindor. That's the second time today. Think she's losing her touch?"
Harry laughed. "I think she's getting used having the House Cup in her office. I don't think she wants to give it back to Snape."
"Well, all you have to do is win the Tournament and the other houses don't stand a chance", Ginny smiled. Harry's stomach gave a nasty turn when he realized he wasn't even close to finding the solution for his egg, but he didn't talk about it. It was his talk, not someone else's.
They climbed into the Gryffindor Common Room, which was deserted except for two figures sitting on a couch by the fire.
"Harry, Ginny! There you are, we were dead worried!", Hermione exclaimed. Harry gulped when he saw Ron glaring at him.
"So, where you've been?", he asked.
"We were outside, we kind of lost track of time.", Harry answered.
"Lost track of time, huh." Ron's ears were getting red and Harry knew that wasn't a good sign.
"Honestly Ron, we were just talking. Besides, what Harry and I do is our business, not yours. You understand?" Ginny glared at Ron and she looked so much like Mrs Weasley that he wasn't surprised Ron looked away.
"Alright, alright. I'm going to bed, you coming?" he asked Harry.
"Yeah, in a minute."
Unfortunately Ron waited until Harry came with him, so he grudgingly said goodnight to Hermione and Ginny and followed them up the stairs. When he closed the drapes of his four-poster, he realized how beaten he really was. He fell asleep the second his head touched his pillow. What followed was a night full of flashes of red and brown.
"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." – Norman Vincent Peale
*Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, dutch edition
Chapter 4: Two Beavers Are Better Than One
The rest of the Christmas holidays passed in a blur. Everybody had been procrastinating the first week of the holidays, because everyone was too excited about the Yule Ball, but now it was back to harsh reality. The fourth years had been assigned mountains of homework. The teachers were saying they were preparing their students for O.W.L. examinations, although those didn’t come until fifth year. Harry also had the mystery of his golden egg that he couldn’t seem to figure out. All of the free time he had left from his school work he was spending on listening to the screams that came out of the egg. Therefore Harry had barely had time to talk to Ginny. He felt really badly about it. After all, he had told her that he liked her and he knew what would have happened if McGonagall hadn’t interrupted them. He thought Ginny would be mad or at least annoyed at him, but when he spoke to her in the common room, she was just her friendly self.
One Tuesday, when Harry had stayed behind at Potions because Snape wanted him to clean out the wall cabinets (without magic), Cedric Diggory approached him on his way to the Great Hall.
“Hey Harry, you seem a bit stressed these days?”
“Yeah well, I’ve been a bit busy, between homework and that bloody egg.”
“Hm. Does your egg also shriek when you open it?”, Cedric asked.
“Open it underwater.”
“Trust me” Cedric insisted.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Are you kidding me? You saved my neck by telling me about the first task. If I wouldn’t have known in advance I’d have fainted on the spot. And we’re friends, aren’t we?”
“Yes we are”, Harry said. “But we’re also competitors.”
“Harry”, Cedric said. “Does it really matter that much who wins. I’d be just as happy if you win as if I win. We’re playing for Hogwarts. Personally I don’t care that much for money and eternal glory. And I know for a fact that you don’t either. If the four of us all play for ourselves one of us might win. But if we form a team, I don’t think Krum or Fleur has much of a chance, do you?”
Harry looked at the older boy. Cedric had gained an enormous amount of respect from Harry with what he just said. He pondered his words before he answered him: “A team huh. I think I’d like that.”
That evening Harry went to the Prefect’s bathroom. Cedric had proposed to use it, because he would be less likely to be disturbed. Although he went at night, he still chose to follow Cedric’s advice. When he came to the entrance he gave the password (Pine Fresh) and entered the gigantic bathroom. When he had heard the song it only took him a few minutes to figure out they were merpeople. He would have to go into the Black Lake. He never even learned to swim. Trying not to panic, Harry got dressed and went back to the Gryffindor Common Room, which was empty, at least almost.
“Ginny!”, Harry exclaimed when he saw her on the couch before the fire. He quickly went over and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I’m really sorry we haven’t been able to spend time together, Ginny.”
“It’s alright, Harry.” Ginny gave him a small smile. I know how busy you’ve been. You don’t have to spend too much time on me.”
“Of course, I do. It’s just – well, it’s a bit hectic, is all.”
“I understand”, Ginny smiled. “So, went for a night time stroll?”
“I went to figure that bloody egg out. Cedric told me to hold it underwater before listening to it.”
“Why did he tell you that”, Ginny frowned. “Aren’t you supposed to be competitors?”
That’s what I said.” Harry laughed. “He said he wanted to repay me for tipping him off about the dragons for the first task. He told me he wants to form a team.”
“Yeah, me and him. He says we’ll be stronger if we work together. It doesn’t matter who wins, if only it’s one of us. None of us care for money or eternal glory so. We just want to win for Hogwarts.”
“I think that’s a great idea. If you work together, Krum and Fleur don’t stand a chance! So what did you find out?” Ginny asked.
“It was a song by merpeople”, Harry explained. “They will take something from me that I sorely miss. I have an hour to go look for it in the Black Lake.”
“An hour? How could you possibly breathe under water for an hour?”
“That’s not even my first concern.”, Harry said with a grim look on his face.
“What do you mean?”, Ginny asked.
“I can’t swim”, Harry stated simply.
“You can’t swim?!”
“Never learned it”, Harry admitted. “My aunt and uncle never sent me to swimming lessons. I think they hoped I would drown one lucky day.”
“Oh well, you’ll have to learn then.”
“How? It’s not like we have a swimming pool at Hogwarts. And the lake is freezing right now.”
Ginny thought for a moment. “I once heard of a room…”
“Yes, Fred and George told me about it. They were once running away from Filch when they stumbled upon a broom closet they could hide in and Filch couldn’t find them. It’s really strange, because they had passed there twice already and they swore there was nothing there then, except for a wall. They were still trying to find a place to hide when they passed the third time and then there was a door. They went inside and it was a cupboard. They heard Filch walk by outside, but apparently he couldn’t see the door.”
“That’s a nice story”, Harry said surprised. “But what does it have to do with this?”
“Well, Fred and George still know exactly where that door was, but it has never appeared again”, Ginny informed him. “There was also no indication that something was there on the Marauder’s Map. They did some research and there have been stories that the founders built a secret room in the castle. Not like the Chamber of Secrets”, she added when she saw Harry’s look. “It’s a room who answers to the needs of the users. For example, Fred and George desperately needed a place to hide…”
“So it would turn into a broom cabinet”, Harry finished her sentence. “So… If you would be in desperate need of a bathroom…”
“That’s clever, Harry.” Ginny laughed.
“Is there any proof that this room actually exists?”, Harry asked.
“Not that I know of. But there have been a lot of stories, plus Fred and George’s experience… The Chamber of Secrets was also based on stories”, she remembered him.
“You’re right. So if this room exists, Fred and George know exactly where it is?”
“Then why didn’t they use it again?”, Harry asked.
“They don’t know how”, Ginny replied simply.
Harry’s eyes lightened up. He had an idea. “Dobby!”
“Good night Harry Potter, sir and miss Wheezy. What can Dobby do for you?”
“I have a question for you Dobby”, Harry said. “Have you ever heard of a room in Hogwarts that fulfils the user’s needs. That can take the form of whatever the user needs at that moment?”
Dobby answered immediately: “Yes sir, we house elves call it the Come and Go Room sir, more commonly known as the Room of Requirement.”
“More commonly known, you say?”, Harry inquired. “How many people do exactly know of this room?”
“Oh, not many people, sir. I think on this day only Professor Dumbledore sir, and maybe Professor McGonagall.”
“That’s great!” Ginny exclaimed. “Can you show us how to use it Dobby?”
“It is very easy to use, miss.”, Dobby squeaked. “You just walk passed the blank piece of wall three times while thinking about what you really need and then the room will appear, miss.”
Harry and Ginny looked at each other. It seemed like they had discovered one of Hogwarts deepest secrets that only Dumbledore knew about. “We should keep this for ourselves for now”, Harry said.
“I agree.” Ginny affirmed. “But we should tell Fred and George. They would be furious if we let them out of this.”
Harry laughed. “Very true. And Ron and Hermione, I think.”
“Well that’s it then. You can learn how to swim Harry!”
Starting from the next day, Ginny gave him swimming lessons every evening. Harry found himself thinking about her more and more, even daydreaming during the lessons. Hermione noticed something was going on of course. Harry knew that she had her ideas and as always, her ideas were far too accurate. Harry realized he was falling for the youngest Weasley. He couldn’t do anything about it and to be quite honest, he didn’t want to do anything about it. He loved spending time with her and became more and more attracted to her. Seeing her in a two piece bathing suit during his swimming lessons wasn’t doing much good for his teenage hormones too. He knew if Ron could watch in his head, he would strangle Harry in his sleep, best mate or not.
Although Harry and Ginny were spending much more time together now, and in the eyes of most of the Gryffindor students were actually dating, they still weren’t a couple yet. Harry knew he wanted to be with her, and that she wanted to be with him (unless he was very much mistaken), but he was totally new at this. He had never kissed a girl before, let alone had a relationship. His only regular female contacts were Hermione, who was his best friend, and Parvati and Lavender, who were just friends. Harry knew that he had to do something soon or she was going to get tired of waiting and move on.
“That’s it, Harry!”, Ginny yelled from the side of the pool. “You’re getting really good, you’re certainly able to swim to the bottom of the lake now.”
“Yeah”, Harry grinned. “Now we only have that tiny problem of breathing underwater for an hour.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll find something”, Ginny reassured him while they were walking back to the common room. They walked in silence for a few minutes. Suddenly Harry said: “There’s a Hogsmeade visit the weekend after the second task.”
“There is?”, Ginny asked. She couldn’t help but smile to herself for her acting skills. She had known about the Hogsmeade trip for days, from the moment the message had been hung at the board in the common room. Justin Finch-Fletchley and Michael Corner had both asked her out but she rejected them, still waiting for Harry.
“Yeah”, Harry continued. “Would you… I mean do you want to.. Do you want to go with me?”
Ginny’s heart started beating faster. She couldn’t help it. He was Harry Potter, probably the most famous wizard in Britain and still he was here, asking her out as shy as can be. “I’d love to Harry.” She had the widest smile on her face. They had reached the Fat Lady.
“So we er, we’ll go out then”, Harry stuttered.
Ginny took his hand. “What are you so nervous about, Harry? I had to overcome my shyness to talk to you and now that I’m over it, you’re here stammering like an idiot”, she said with a loving smile.
“It’s just. I really like you, Ginny. And I don’t want things to be weird with you being Ron’s sister and all, but I really want to be with you.” Harry’s heart flushed. Had he really just said that?
Ginny gazed into those green eyes she had come to know so well over the past weeks. “I’d really like that”, she whispered. She closed the space between her and Harry and Harry leaned in, closing the gap between their heads. When their lips met, Harry’s heart jolted around in his chest. This was the most amazing feeling he ever experienced. He wanted to stay here forever, one hand on her back and one caressing her beautiful, long, red hair…
Harry and Ginny let go of each other and looked at the Fat Lady. Expect the Fat Lady wasn’t looking back at them. Apparently Hermione was on her way to the library when she opened the portrait hole and found two of her best friends in a very tight embrace. Over her shoulder they saw half of Gryffindor house stare at them with open mouths.
The fact that Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley were an official couple was apparently big news at Hogwarts. Of course every student in the school knew Harry, but Ginny was also rather known. Her red hair and freckles gave away immediately that she was a Weasley and the Weasleys were a rather well known pureblood family, although they were considered blood traitors by certain other families.
Harry had to endure some bantering over the next few days. He didn’t mind much, because most of the time, it was in good nature. But of course, there were the usual exceptions.
“So, got hold of the blood traitor girl, eh, Potter.”
“Shut up, Malfoy.”
“I don’t understand you can touch her, Potter. Especially after she was already used and thrown away by the Dark Lord.” Being the son of Lucius, Draco knew of course that it had been Ginny who had opened the Chamber of Secrets two years ago.
Harry lost his temper. “Furnunculus”, he yelled. Malfoy’s face became immediately covered in boils, much to the amusement of the many Gryffindors in the corridor. Unfortunately for Harry there also happened to be walking a teacher by at the moment.
“50 points from Gryffindor, Potter. And a week’s worth detention.”, Snape sneered.
Harry shrugged and walked on. He had agreed to meet Cedric in the library. He wanted to talk to him about the second task. When he got there, Cedric was already waiting for him, as he expected. He went and joined him.
“Sorry I’m late, had to stop and hex Malfoy on the way here.”
“I can understand that”, Cedric smirked. “Look about the second task, I think I found something. It’s actually a charm we learned in Charms class last year, so you wouldn’t know about it yet. It’s called the Bubblehead Charm. Basically it just forms a sort of air bubble around your head, so you always have a supply of fresh air. It should work.”
“Sounds good”, Harry said. “Is it difficult to master?”
“It’s a fairly advanced charm. I had some problems with it last year”, Cedric admitted. “But I’ll help you. And I think you’re a far more accomplished wizard than I am.” He grinned.
“Oh shut it.” They laughed.
“Hey guys. Mind if I join you?”
“Not at all, Neville”, Cedric said. “What you’re working on?”
“I’m doing some Herbology research for Professor Sprout on water plants. What about you? Triwizard Tournament?”
“Yeah, I’ll have to learn the Bubblehead Charm”, Harry said. He quickly explained the charm and the second task. “We have to be able to breathe underwater for an hour.”
“Breathe underwater?”, Neville asked. “Why don’t you use Gillyweed?”
“Gillyweed?”, Harry and Cedric replied in unison.
“Yeah”, Neville said. “Well that Bubblehead Charm looks okay to me, but if I understand it, it just gives you a supply of fresh air and the rest of your body stays unchanged right?”
“Yeah”, Cedric said slowly.
“Well, Gillyweed gives you gills, so you’ll be able to breathe underwater like it’s your own habitat. Plus, you will have flippers, so you’ll be able to move through the water much faster.”
“That’s brilliant, Neville!”, Harry yelled and immediately received an angry glare from Madam Pince.
“It is”, Cedric agreed, although a bit softer than Harry. “I think we should use that if we can, Harry.”
Harry nodded. “So Neville, where do we get Gillyweed?”
Neville’s grin slowly slid of his face. “Oh”, he said. “That could be potentially problematic.”
A/N: Thank you very much for reading!
I was planning on writing out the rest of the series out of the point where Harry and Ginny go to the Yule Ball together, but I think if I’ll do that I’m going to need several more stories. So we’ll see how far it goes.
Chapter 5: The Second Task
"You're kidding me right?"
"Ssh, Harry, not so loud", whispered Neville.
"Sorry.", Harry mumbled. "So you're absolutely sure that it's the only way?"
"As far as I know."
" It's not impossible, it has been done before.", Cedric said.
"Yeah, I know. Hermione did it back in second year.", Harry said.
"Hermione?" Cedric smirked. "Not the good girl she'd like you to believe, eh."
"Never mind. Is it worth the risk though? I mean, we could just use the Bubblehead Charm." Harry sighed. After hearing about the other option he didn't feel like using the Bubblehead Charm at all, but it seemed like they had no other choice. "Even if I get in there I wouldn't know how to look for it, I don't even know what it looks like." He turned to Cedric. "Do you?"
"Nope", Cedric replied solemnly. "It's the first time I hear about it. I've never been great at Herbology."
"I could go with you.", Neville proposed.
"I don't think we would all fit under the cloak", answered Harry. "We've gotten a lot bigger and Cedric isn't that short either."
"Well, you and I go then", Neville said. "I could find the Gillyweed immediately. We'd be out of there in no time."
Harry knew how frightened Neville must be, considering what they were planning. But the fact his friend was determined to accompany him so he could help him, struck him as extremely loyal. A trait Neville never hesitated to show.
"Alright", Harry said. "We're going to break into Snape's office."
That night Neville and Harry departed on their little quest. They were both under the Invisibility Cloak, so they couldn't be caught. That thought didn't calm Harry, he knew this was the easy part. "Okay, we're here", Harry whispered. "There's no light, let's hope he doesn't like to hang out in the dark." Neville let out a nervous laugh.
The door opened with a soft cracking, but in the silent dungeons it seemed extremely loud. Harry and Neville stayed under the cloak while they went inside to be sure. Once it was clear the office was empty, they closed the door and slipped of the Invisibility Cloak.
"Here's the cupboard", Harry said. He opened it and saw dozens and dozens of boxes. How would they ever find what they needed. Than he had an idea. "Accio Gillyweed." A little cardboard box came flying out of the closet in Harry's hand. He grinned at Neville.
"I can't believe we didn't think of that before."
Neville grinned too. "Let's just take enough, so Snape won't notice too fast something is missing."
"I think he'll figure it out Saturday anyway, Neville. If both me and Cedric use Gillyweed, he will know we didn't get it out of our backyard."
"Don't worry. He won't be able to prove anything. If we get back to the common room without being caught, that is."
Harry and Neville returned to the common room. The only things they encountered on their journey was the Bloody Baron, who was moaning softly when they passed him and Peeves the Poltergeist, who had apparently just locked Mrs Norris inside an armour.
"Quickly", Harry hissed, when he heard the shuffling footsteps and the angry muttering of Argus Filch coming from around the corner. They ducked behind a tapestry that hid a secret passageway that was a shorter route to the corridor of the Fat Lady.
"Been out again?", she reprimanded them. "You know, in all the years I'm doing this job, there's not one student who I had to let in after curfew as much as you, Harry Potter. One of these days, I'm going to have to report you to Professor McGonagall, surely you realize that?"
"Flibbertigibbet.", Harry said with a sweet smile.
"Oh alright, come on in", the Fat Lady said.
Next Saturday brought a new task for the champions of the Triwizard Tournament. Although Harry didn't look forward to eating slimy Gillyweed and going into the Black Lake looking for merpeople who stole something from him, he looked forward to this task with more confidence than the first one. First of all, although the cold water may be very uncomfortable and the merpeople a bit scary, he didn't have to fear a fire breathing creature trying to kill him this time. Harry and Cedric had done some research on merpeople. They might look violent and aggressive, but in fact merpeople were apparently quite peaceful creatures. And maybe most importantly, he wouldn't be alone this time. Cedric had meant it when he said he wanted to form a team with Harry. Not only did they work together on the solution for the second task, they also agreed to stay together at all times in the lake. He would never admit it to anybody, but the thought that Cedric would stay with him and they would watch each other's backs was a huge reassurance for Harry.
In fact, Harry had been happier for the last couple of days than he had been in a long time. He was perfectly prepared for the second task, or as prepared as he would ever be. And on top of it he was dating Ginny Weasley, an amazing young witch who could still surprise him every day.
When the morning of the second task came, Harry awoke in an empty dormitory. When he came downstairs he saw there was no one in the common room as well. Panicking slightly, he looked at his watch. It was a quarter to nine, still and hour and fifteen minutes until the test started. Where was everyone? He wouldn't have gotten the time wrong would he? But no, Bagman had clearly said ten o'clock in the morning. He went downstairs to the Great Hall by himself. When he walked through the doors, the Great Hall erupted in applause. Harry saw that whole Gryffindor house was in the Hall and they had all jumped out of their seats when he entered. They waved with flags, scarfs and banners, saying things like 'Potter for President', 'They won't tame the lion' and 'Hogwarts For TWC'. Harry was overwhelmed by all the support and he just stood there for a few moments until he realized he was standing in the middle of the Hall. He went to sit with his friends and said: "Thanks guys, this really means a lot to me." He saw a lot of people beaming at him. When he looked over at the Staff Table, he saw Dumbledore looking at him with the characteristic twinkle in his eye and McGonagall was beaming, obviously very proud of the unity her house showed. Harry quickly glanced over to the Hufflepuff table. He caught Cedric's eye and he gave Harry a wink.
"Where's Ginny", asked Harry, after he had looked up and down the table for a second and third time.
"I don't know Harry", Hermione said, looking slightly worried. "She hasn't come down for breakfast yet.
"Maybe she's sick", offered Ron.
"Oh honestly Ron", Hermione snapped. "Ginny could be dying and she wouldn't miss the task."
"Oh well" Ron shrugged. "She'll come out."
Hermione rolled her eyes. Harry felt a great part of his confidence disappear. Yesterday evening and even now at this very table a few moments ago, Harry had been boasting with self-esteem. But now that Ginny was nowhere to be seen, he found himself doubting himself again. It seemed only a couple of seconds later Professor Dumbledore stood up from the staff table and announced it was time for the champions to head to the Black Lake. Harry saw many students look at each other with puzzled looks of their faces when the headmaster mentioned the lake. He joined Cedric at the entrance of the Great Hall and side by side, they headed to the lake.
"You seem nervous". Cedric sure had a thing with stating the obvious. "I thought you were more confident for this task?"
"I was", Harry said. "I mean, I am." After a short pause he added. "I didn't see Ginny this morning."
Cedric frowned. "Hm, I didn't see Cho this morning too." He hesitated. "Do you think they're using them?"
Harry looked at him. "You mean like hostages?"
"Well yeah. I mean, it makes sense doesn't it?", Cedric answered. "They would both want to be here and neither of them are. Kind of a big coincidence isn't it?"
"I guess so. But wouldn't that be dangerous?"
"Of course not", Cedric reassured him. "They would be safe of course. Dumbledore wouldn’t permit it if it put them in any danger.”
Harry nodded. The headmaster might be eccentric and incomprehensible sometimes, but Harry knew he would give his own life before endangering one of his students. They arrived at the lake.
"Gather round, gather round", Ludo Bagman said, his face flushed with excitement once more. "Alright, lady, gentlemen. I'm sure you have all figured out the clue that was in your golden egg?" They all nodded. "Very well. So you know you have one hour to recover the treasure they took from you. Get on your marks."
Harry stood between Cedric and Fleur. When the signal was given, Harry saw Fleur perform the Bubblehead Charm and dive straight into the water. Krum had also disappeared, though he didn't see what he had done. Harry and Cedric simply walked into the water, quickly chewing on the Gillyweed. The spectators were watching with puzzled looks on their faces. Suddenly Harry wasn't able to breathe and instinctively he dived head first underwater. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Cedric do the same.
They were searching for the merpeople for about half an hour when they encountered Moaning Myrtle. They were panicking slightly, because the task only gave them an hour and the Gillyweed wouldn't work much longer than that. Moaning Myrtle grinned as she saw them struggle. "I'd try that way"*, she said. She pointed to her left. "Quickly."
Harry and Cedric swam together through the village of the merpeople. They attracted a lot of curiosity, many merpeople came out of their small houses to look at them as they passed. They arrived at a public square of sorts, where four people were tied up to wooden poles. Harry immediately recognized Ginny and Cho, apparently sleeping. Next to them, there was a small girl with silver hair, which probably was Fleur's little sister and a foreign looking boy.
Harry suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. He startled, but relaxed when he saw it was just Cedric. ‘Are you okay’, his face asked and Harry realized he had been staring at Ginny for a long time. Seeing her bounded there, away from the world and helpless, brought back memories to him he’d rather forget.
Harry pulled out the knife he received from Sirius out of his pocket and cut down the robes that were holding Ginny. When he wanted to do the same with Cho, the mermaid next to him stopped him and shook his head. "Only your own hostage.**"
Harry stared at him and shrugged. Then he simply gave his knife to Cedric who smiled and released Cho. Together, they were making their way back to the surface. When they had just left the village, they met Fleur, who smiled at them. Krum was nowhere to be seen. The Gillyweed stopped working when they were about to resurface.
"Now that's what they call timing.", Cedric grinned.
They were met by a deafening noise. Now that they were in the fresh air again, Ginny and Cho woke up.
"You did it!", Ginny yelled. She hugged Harry closely, while Cho was doing the same with Cedric. "Not going for anything less than first place, huh?"
Harry and Cedric were grinning broadly. They finished first and Harry was leading the Tournament, closely followed by Cedric. They didn't know what the third task would be, but at the moment, they couldn’t care less.
"We shall win only by working together." – Gnassingbe Eyadema
* Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 26: The Second Task by J.K. Rowling
** Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 26: The Second Task by J.K. Rowling
6 For the rest of the weekend, the only thing Harry did was relax. He decided he deserved a break from his school work and the third task was planned on June 24th, ages from now. He spent a lot of time with Ginny, who he felt he had been neglecting again. Not that she would complain, but he always felt guilty when he didn't have much time for her. He also realized he would have to talk about Sirius with her soon. He didn't like keeping things from her. The last push he needed to finally tell her about him came at breakfast on Monday. Hedwig landed before him and after Harry took his letter and offered her a piece of his toast, she flew off to the Owlery. Harry recognized the handwriting immediately.
I know there's a Hogsmeade visit planned for this Saturday. Make sure you are at the stile at the end of the road out of Hogsmeade (passed Dervish and Banges) at three o'clock. Make sure you're not followed.
Harry frowned. This letter clearly meant Sirius was in Hogsmeade. What was he thinking? If the Dementors found him he would be back in Azkaban before he could say 'innocent'. If he was lucky. Last year the Ministry had given the Dementors permission to perform the kiss if they found him. On the other hand, Harry would be very happy to see Sirius. He had only met his godfather in person once, when he was still convinced he was a deranged mass murderer who betrayed his parents, but his letters were a huge comfort to him through the Triwizard Tournament. The fact that there was an adult out there who cared for him and looked out for him like a father would, was a feeling Harry never had before he met Sirius. He shoot a glance at Ginny who was looking at him questioningly.
"Come on, let's go", he said. They left the crowded Great Hall and Harry led his girlfriend outside and walked in the direction of the lake.
"Harry, what is it?", Ginny asked. "Who was that letter from?"
"It was from my godfather", Harry answered.
"You have a godfather?" Ginny looked positively dumbfounded. "How come you never told me?"
"It's a long story", Harry said. "Just let me finish, okay?" She nodded with a curious expression on her face and he continued to tell her everything from the time he overheard Professor McGonagall saying Sirius was his godfather until the evening in the Shrieking Shack and Sirius' escape from the Dementors.
Ginny was looking at him with her mouth wide open. "Wow. And he was Ron's rat?!"
"Yeah." Harry frowned. "If we hadn't let him escape Sirius' name would have been cleared right now. He wouldn't have to be on the run. We could live together." Harry still thought from time to time about the life he could have had if Peter Pettigrew hadn't escaped. "Anyway, we kept contact and he wants to meet me Saturday in Hogsmeade."
"Oh", Ginny said, looking a bit disappointed. "No problem."
"I'm not blowing you off, Ginny", Harry said quickly when he realized what was bothering her. "I'm not meeting him until three o'clock and, well, I thought maybe you'd want to come to?"
Ginny smiled. "Of course I want to come. Wouldn't he mind though?"
"Of course not! Ron and Hermione will want to come too I think, they'll want to see him."
They were walking back to the castle when Harry said: "I'm sorry I didn't tell you earlier. I didn't know if – ". He hesitated.
"If I would believe you?", Ginny asked with raised eyebrows. "You should know better than that!"
"I know. I guess I didn't know how you would react."
Ginny stopped and pressed her lips to his. "Don't worry about it. You told me now. And I'm glad you did."
When Saturday morning came, Harry couldn't help but feel a bit nervous. Although he had been seeing Ginny for several weeks, this would be their first real date. He looked over to Ron's bed. His best friend was still snoring loudly with his mouth wide open. Ron asked Hermione to go to Hogsmeade with him and she gladly accepted. Although they went to the Yule Ball together, nothing had happened between his two best friends. Ron still lacked a lot of confidence. Harry knew Hermione liked him, but she was still waiting for him to make the first move. If it was going to keep moving forward at this rate, they wouldn't be a couple until seventh year.
Harry and Ginny enjoyed their time together in Hogsmeade very much. They went to Honeydukes and Zonko's, where they met Fred, George en Lee, and went to have lunch in the Three Broomsticks. When they found a table the door opened again and Ron and Hermione walked in. They had lunch with the four of them and then left together to meet Sirius. When they got there a large black dog was waiting for them. He looked from Ginny to Harry.
"It's okay. She knows", Harry said. "Ginny, meet my godfather."
Ginny nervously petted the dog in front of her. He wagged his tail before he turned around and led them to a cave outside of Hogsmeade. When they entered the cave they met Buckbeak, who was looking extremely bored, being locked up in a cave. The four of them bowed nervously. After he bowed back, Hermione and Ginny started stroking his feathers. Harry and Ron turned to the dog who had changed back into Harry's godfather, Sirius Black.
"How are you doing?", Sirius asked with a grin. "Leading the Triwizard Tournament now, huh? I wouldn't expect less from you."
Harry laughed and hugged his godfather. "What are you doing here? What if they find you?"
"What's life without a little risk", Sirius smirked. "Besides, the Aurors have absolutely no idea about my whereabouts. They probably think I fled to another country and won't risk to come back. Besides, I still have the best disguise a man could need. But I believe introductions are in order?" He looked at Ginny questioningly.
"Oh yeah. This is Ginny Weasley. She's Ron's sister and my girlfriend", Harry said, blushing lightly.
"Girlfriend, huh?" Sirius was grinning broadly, seeing Harry's discomfort. "Well, nice to meet you! I'm Sirius, but you already know that of course."
"Nice to meet you", Ginny said with a small voice.
"Don't be shy, I won't kill you. Broke off the habit", Sirius joked. Harry, Ron and Hermione were laughing out loud and Ginny smiled.
"I'm sorry", she muttered.
"Don't worry about it", Sirius said. "People are bound to react this way after hearing that I'm a murdering lunatic for all those years. You're taking it quite well, actually. You should have seen Harry when he first saw me. He tried to kill me!"
After the ice was broken, the afternoon passed in pleasant conversation. Harry was enjoying spending time with his godfather immensely and was reluctant to go back to the castle when it was five o'clock. Promising he would write soon, Sirius said goodbye and the four friends returned to the school.
When Harry woke up Monday morning he decided he had to talk to Dumbledore. He had had a dream that night about Voldemort and Wormtail again. This time Voldemort had punished Wormtail because of a mistake he made. He had said that his mistake had been rectified by his trusted servant at Hogwarts. This wasn't the first time Harry dreamt about Voldemort and Wormtail and he knew Dumbledore would want him to tell him. After his last class of the day, Transfiguration, Harry stayed behind to ask McGonagall the password to get past the gargoyle. Then he walked straight up to Dumbledore's office.
"Ah Harry. To what do I owe this pleasure?"
"I wanted to talk to you, Professor", Harry said nervously. He hesitated. He didn't want Dumbledore to think he was worrying needlessly about a simple dream.
"Sit down, Harry. Tell me what is bothering you."
Harry told him everything about the dream he had that night and the other dreams about Voldemort. A long silence followed. Dumbledore seemed to be thinking deeply about what Harry told him. Harry noticed his headmaster was looking worried.
"Sir?", Harry said at last. "You don't think this dreams are really happening, do you?"
Dumbledore looked at him. "As a matter of fact, I do, Harry. You see, the night Voldemort tried to kill you, he transformed some powers of his own to you, as I told you before. That is the reason you can speak to snakes. I think that scar on your forehead is a connection to him. It is my believe that that is the reason you have these dreams."
"But I've had that scar since I was a year old. I never had these dreams before." Harry pondered for a moment. "Do you think Voldemort is getting stronger, sir?"
Dumbledore looked at him worriedly. "I think you already know the answer to that, Harry."
Harry's insides were turning. "Do you think he will come back?"
"Yes.", Dumbledore stated simply. "I have always known that Voldemort was bound to find a way to return. He never succeeded, because he was weak and alone. All his followers had abandoned him. You know he tried to steal the Philosopher's Stone with the goal to recreate a body of his own. His plan failed, thanks to you, but now he is no longer alone. He has a faithful servant by his side again and I am afraid this time he will succeed."
"It's my fault", Harry said solemnly. "I convinced Sirius and Professor Lupin to let Wormtail live. If I hadn't, Voldemort wouldn't be getting stronger."
"Don't blame yourself, Harry", Dumbledore said sternly. "You did the right thing that night. Wormtail owns you a life debt and you can be sure that that will make a difference. As for Voldemort, I believe his return is inevitable, with or without Wormtail."
"Professor", Harry said. "Voldemort mentioned that there was a Death Eater at Hogwarts in my dream."
Dumbledore didn't look surprised. "I had my suspicions."
"Do you think it was him who put my name into the Goblet of Fire?", Harry asked.
"Him or her. Though what Voldemort's intentions are, I do not know. If only I knew who it was."
Harry was thinking about what Sirius had told him in the fire of the Gryffindor common room. "You don't think it could be Karkaroff, sir?"
"I am quite certain it is not Professor Karkaroff, Harry", Dumbledore said. "According to Professor Snape he is more frightened the Dark Lord may return than most of the magical community. I am certain you know about his past, but he gave a lot of names of Death Eaters to keep himself out of Azkaban. He would not be welcomed back into Voldemort's inner circle and most likely be killed."
"Snape, sir?", Harry asked puzzled. "How would Snape know?"
"Professor Snape, Harry", Dumbledore corrected him. He looked at Harry for a minute and said: "What I'm about to tell you should not be commonly known, Harry. It would not do for too many people to know." He hesitated before he said: "Professor Snape used to be a Death Eater."
Harry was shocked, but after a minute he thought he should have realized it all along. "No one stops being a Death Eater", he said firmly.
Dumbledore chuckled. "I can see you have been talking to Sirius Black a lot since you met him. He is already rubbing of on you! But I can assure you Severus is not loyal to Voldemort, Harry. He changed sides more than a year before Voldemort's downfall. He was spying for our side."
Harry decided to not argue with Dumbledore about it. He went down to the Great Hall for dinner and silently told Ginny, Hermione and Ron about his conversation with the headmaster.
"Snape was a Death Eater?", Ginny asked shocked.
"We should have known it!", Ron exclaimed. "How could he not be? I can't believe Dumbledore trusts that git!"
"Ssh Ronald!", Hermione said sternly. "If Dumbledore trusts him, who are we to question it? He's the greatest wizard in the world. Snape wouldn't be able to deceive him."
The weeks passed quickly and the third task of the Triwizard Tournament was approaching. Harry didn't hear anything until a month before the task, McGonagall informed him the presence of the champions was required at the Quidditch pitch at eight o'clock that night.
When he got there the other champions were already waiting for him with Ludo Bagman.
"Now that we're all here, I'll inform you about the third task. Anyone care to guess what we're growing here?" He gestured to the pitch which was covered in what seemed to be short hedges.
"A maze?", Cedric offered.
"Exactly! It's very simple. The Triwizard Cup will be placed inside the maze and the first champion who reaches it, wins the tournament!"
"So, all we have to do is find our way through the maze?", Harry asked sceptically. It didn't seem dangerous enough to be a task in the tournament, especially if it was the last one.
"Well, of course they'll be extra obstacles" answered Bagman. "They're will be spells, enchantments to get past. And Hagrid is providing us with some magical creatures."
Harry and Cedric were looking at each other. They knew exactly which sort of creatures Hagrid would consider appropriate for this task. "I swear if I see one Blast-Ended Skrewt…", Cedric said. Harry laughed out loud, while Bagman, Fleur and Krum looked at them inquisitively.
Harry, Cedric and Fleur walked back to the castle together, while Krum was walking back to the ship quickly. He was being even more silent and gruff than before. There had been a lot of rumours about the boy he had rescued out of the lake during the second task. There were whispers he would have been more than a friend and Rita Skeeter had of course written an animated article about it in Witch Weekly.
The weeks leading up to the third task, Harry and Cedric trained together. They used empty classrooms, until Professor McGonagall who had found them several times, offered to use the Transfiguration classroom so they wouldn't get into trouble. They practiced disarming and stunning, and several curses. Harry was fairly confident. He knew it would be difficult, but he thought they were well prepared and the nature of the task allowed Harry and Cedric to work together again. They were both glad, because it meant they either both won, or none of them did.
The evening before the final task, Harry saw his old vision of winning the Triwizard Cup, only this time Cedric was beside him and the girl looking admiringly at him wasn't Cho, but Ginny.
"In union there is strength" – Aesop Fabulist
Chapter 7: The Third Task
When Harry arrived in the Great Hall the following morning, he could feel the tension and excitement. Tonight, the Triwizard Tournament would end with the third task. For the other students it was the last day of exams. Harry had sat in the back of the room researching for more curses while the others took their exams, as he was excused from taking them. When his friends got up Harry made to follow them, but he was stopped by Professor McGonagall.
“Potter! You are expected in the antechamber of the Great Hall. The family of the champions has been invited to watch the third task.”
Harry looked at her, dumbfounded. “I don’t think my family would want to visit Hogwarts, Professor. They hate magic.”
Professor McGonagall merely smiled. “I think you’d be surprised”, she said and she left him alone.
Not knowing what to expect he entered the chamber. He saw Fleur and Krum with their families close to the door. By the fire he saw Cedric with his parents and talking to them were Arthur, Molly and Bill Weasley and Remus Lupin.
“Harry!”, Lupin exclaimed. He hugged Harry and said: “I’m proud of you, Harry. I knew you were capable of holding your own in this tournament, but you’re doing better than even I expected!”
Harry grinned. “I learned from the best”, and Lupin smiled broadly.
After greeting the Weasleys, Harry took them for a tour around Hogwarts. Mr and Mrs Weasley were very interested in the Whomping Willow, as they had never seen it before. Harry and Lupin looked at each other briefly and smiled. After the tour they had dinner in the Great Hall with all the other Weasleys and Hermione. Harry had the time of his life. It was like being back at The Burrow. That illusion was scattered by Professor Dumbledore who had raised from the staff table and requested the champions to accompany Ludo Bagman to the Quidditch field. Harry started to get nervous again, but was still fairly confident. They all wished them good luck and Hermione and Ginny kissed him on the cheek. They hadn’t told Mr and Mrs Weasley they were dating yet.
Harry met Cedric at the doors of the Great Hall.
“You ready?”, Cedric asked.
“As ready as I’ll ever be”, Harry said, but there was confidence in his voice.
Cedric gave him a pat on the back. “We can win this.”
Seeing as Harry was in the lead he entered the maze first, but he assured Cedric he would wait. Five minutes later Cedric met up with him and smiled. “I was hoping you wouldn’t ditch me.”
“You didn’t really expect that, did you?”, Harry said.
“Not a moment. You’re a Gryffindor”, Cedric stated. “Come on, let’s go.”
They quickly searched their way through the maze. They had been walking for about half an hour and still hadn’t encountered anything.
“Point Me”, Cedric said. Hermione had discovered the spell when they were training for the task. “We’ve wandered too far to the north, let’s go to the left.”
They walked around the corner and saw…
“Oh bloody hell”, Cedric said when he saw the Blast-Ended Skrewt. He paled and looked extremely frightened. “Impedimenta”, he shouted but the spell missed. The Skrewt was advancing rapidly, but Cedric looked too petrified to move.
Harry jumped in front of him and sent a stunning spell at the Skrewt, only there wasn’t a Skrewt anymore. It had whirled and changed into a Dementor. Harry stood there stunned for a moment and then he realized what it was. “Riddikulus!” The Boggart disappeared and Harry looked at Cedric, who seemed rather embarassed.
“Sorry about that”, he muttered.
“No problem.” Harry grinned. “Blast-Ended Skrewts... Hagrid really messed you up, didn't he?"
Cedric blushed. “Have you seen those things. They’re gigantic.” But he was grinning too. “Let’s go.”
Harry and Cedric hurried through the maze and encountered several more creatures. When they came across a sort of fog the two friends stood still.
“Should we go on?” Harry asked.
“It could be dangerous”, Cedric answered. We could try and find a way around.”
“But we have to be almost there! And there’s two of us. I doubt we’d really be in any danger.”
“All right”, Cedric agreed. “I’ll try and walk through it. You stay here in case something happens.”
Harry nodded and Cedric slowly approached the weird fog that blocked their path. Suddenly he gave a yell of fear.
“What? What’s wrong?”, Harry asked.
“I’m upside down!” Cedric yelled. “The whole world is upside down!”
Harry looked at him dumbfounded. “What are you talking about? You’re just standing there!” Then it hit him. “It has to be an illusion! Just walk on.”
Cedric looked terrified but moved one step further. His face visibly relaxed. “It’s alright, you just have to walk through it.”
Harry followed him and after having the weird feeling that the world had turned upside down they were at the other side of the fog. They continued their path. Suddenly they stood in front of a sphinx who told them they had almost reached their goal and would be allowed passage if they answered her riddle. To his own astonishment it was Harry who was able to give the correct answer and they hurried around the corner. There, they finally saw it. The Triwizard Cup. They ran towards it, but suddenly Harry felt smack something against him. He tumbled onto the ground and dropped his wand. His insides turned into ice when he saw he was being attacked by a giant spider.
Cedric was running towards the Triwizard Cup when he suddenly noticed Harry wasn’t beside him. He looked after him and saw a giant spider. Harry was nowhere to be seen. Cedric realized the spider had to be on top of Harry and his heart stopped for a moment.
Cedric’s spell hit the creature, but he could just as easily have thrown a pebble at the spider. However, the beast did leave Harry alone and went after him instead. Cedric panicked when he saw it approaching. “Stupefy!”
Harry wondered why the spider had suddenly left him alone, but wasn’t complaining. He sat up with a lot of effort and watched how the beast that had attacked him moments ago was quickly approaching Cedric. He realized his friend had come to his rescue, but was now in danger himself. He swiftly grabbed his wand that had fallen beside him. “Stupefy!”
Two spells did what one spell would never have been able to do. The beast fell on the ground unconscious and Cedric hurried over to Harry.
“Are you okay?”, he asked, looking extremely worried.
“Yeah, I think I’m fine. It got my leg, though.”
Cedric helped Harry get up and looked at his leg. “Looks painful. But nothing Madam Pomfrey can’t fix. Come on, let’s get out of here.”
The two of them moved over to the Triwizard Cup, Harry leaning heavily on Cedric’s shoulder. “Alright, you ready?” Cedric asked.
Harry nodded. “On three”, he said. “One, Two, Three.” He felt a hook somewhere behind his navel pull him away and they arrived on a graveyard that looked deserted. The moment his feet touched the ground, his injured leg bend and he fell to his knees.
Cedric looked at him worriedly before he examined his surroundings. “Where the hell are we? I thought the task was just finding the cup in the maze? Why is it a Portkey?”, Cedric asked. “Someone’s coming”, he added after a short silence.
Harry got back to his legs, quickly aided by Cedric. Harry looked around and his eyes narrowed when he saw the closest tombstone. “Tom Marvolo Riddle”, he muttered. “Cedric we have to get out of here!”, he yelled as his scar started burning. “We have to get back to the Cup!”
“Harry? What the hell is going on?”
“It’s him, Cedric! It’s Voldemort!”
“What?!” He turned to the cloaked figure who had almost reached them.
“Kill the spare”*, a high voice ordered.
The cloaked figure pulled out his wand, but Harry was faster. “Expelliarmus!”
The man was blown backwards by the force of Harry’s spell and his head hit the tombstone behind him. He fell on the ground, unconscious, next to the Triwizard Cup.
“Harry, tell me what’s going on”, Cedric demanded.
“I don’t know either, but we need to leave now.”
“But how do you know it’s him?”
“Because my scar – “, Harry started. “We don’t have time for this now. Just get to the cup.”
Cedric looked at him for a moment and then followed him to the Cup. “Alright”, he said. “One, Two, Three.”
The moment Harry took hold of the Portkey, he felt a hand gripping his arm firmly.
“We are in the same boat and we owe each other a terrible loyalty” – G.K. Chesterson
*Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, chapter 32: Flesh, Blood and Bone by J.K. Rowling
Chapter 8: I'm Not Going Home
Back at Hogwarts, chaos had broken out among the spectators. Dumbledore had installed a big screen so people could follow what happened in the maze. The headmaster had watched how Harry and Cedric had stayed together every single moment and had helped each other. When they took out the giant spider together, he had perhaps never felt more proud of two students before. But then he watched how Harry and Cedric took the cup together and he saw the two friends disappear. He immediately descended the stands and now he was pacing in front of the entrance of the maze. He felt helpless and useless. He knew Harry and Cedric were probably in danger and he couldn’t help but think that it had something to do with Voldemort and the fact that Harry’s name had come out of the Goblet of Fire.
Suddenly three figures appeared on the grass right in front of them. Dumbledore felt a wave of relief roll over him as he recognized Harry and Cedric, but who was the third one?
Cedric jumped to his legs quickly. “Petrificus Totalus!” and the cloaked figure fell petrified on the grass.
“Harry, Cedric!”, Dumbledore exclaimed. “What on earth happened?”
“The Cup was a Portkey!”, Harry answered.
“Of course it was a Portkey”, Dumbledore stated. “It was supposed to bring you back here in front of the maze.”
“Well it didn’t”, Cedric said. “It brought us to a graveyard and we were attacked.”
“Professor, who placed the cup in the maze?”, Harry asked.
“Then he is the Death Eater, sir! The cup transported us directly to Voldemort. His Death Eater there tried to kill Cedric before I disarmed him.”
Dumbledore looked at the cloaked figure on the ground. “Incarcerous”, he muttered, binding the Death Eater. “That is impossible, Harry. Of all the people in the world, Alastor Moody is the last one who would join the Death Eaters." Realization suddenly hit him. "He must be an imposter. Severus! Please - "
“I think he is gone, headmaster”, Snape answered. “Nobody has seen him since the beginning of the third task.”
He levitated the petrified Death Eater, who was still wearing his cloak and his mask and led Harry and Cedric to the office of Professor Moody. There he set the Death Eater on a chair, ordered Snape to guard him and began searching the office. When he opened a wooden chest, they saw dozens of flasks. Dumbledore took one, smelled it and handed it to Snape. The Potions master also smelled it and said: “Polyjuice Potion.” Dumbledore nodded.
“Do you think he – “Harry hesitated. “Do you think he killed the real Professor Moody, sir?”
Dumbledore shook his head. “No”, he said. “No, he would have had to keep him alive to make the Polyjuice Potion. He would have had to keep him within his reach.” And his eyes glided across the room. When his eyes saw the trunk in the corner of the office, he quickly walked over and opened it. On the bottom of the trunk lay an unconscious and very weak Mad-Eye Moody. Then the door flew open and Professor McGonagall entered the office.
“Albus, what on earth is going on? What happened down there?”, she demanded to know.
“Ah, Minerva, your arrival is most opportune. Would you please escort Alastor to the hospital wing. I am sure Madam Pomfrey will be able to patch him up.”
“But – “.
“I will explain everything to you later, Minerva”, Dumbledore promised. “Now please go.”
Professor McGonagall obeyed without further comments and left, floating the still unconscious body of the real Mad-Eye Moody in front of her.
“As for you”, Dumbledore said. He looked at the Death Eater. Harry looked in awe at his headmaster. He had never seen him angry before. He knew many people considered him to be the greatest sorcerer in centuries, but to Harry he had always been more of a good-humoured grandfather. Right now, Dumbledore’s face radiated nothing but raw power. He ripped the mask of his face and lowered the hood.
“Peter Pettigrew!”, Harry shouted.
“You know him?”, Cedric asked confused.
“You could say that”, Harry answered his friend with a grim look on his face. “He betrayed my parents to Voldemort.” He had unconsciously pulled out his wand again and pointed it at his face. “Don’t wake him, Professor. He can change into a rat and escape.”
“I know, Harry”, Dumbledore reassured him. He muttered something under his breath. “But not anymore now.”
Harry realized Dumbledore had used some spell that would prevent Pettigrew from changing into his animal form and escape.
“Severus, please take this man to the dungeons and lock him up. Guard him until I come and get you. I will go and get the Minister so we can get him out of here and he can be taken to Azkaban”, Dumbledore ordered. When Snape had left, he turned to Harry and said: “Well, this part did turn out for the better didn’t it.”
Harry was puzzled for a moment before he realized what Dumbledore meant. With Pettigrew captured, the Ministry would be able to question him and Sirius’ name could be cleared. He smiled at his headmaster.
“So Harry, Cedric”, Dumbledore said. “Could you tell me exactly what happened from the moment you touched the Triwizard Cup in the maze?”
Harry and Cedric filled Dumbledore in on the events of that night. The headmaster was drained in his thoughts for a while. Dumbledore realized that Cedric just as easily could have been killed and was happy his students were far more difficult to overpower than Voldemort apparently had thought.
“Do you know what the meaning of this was, Professor?”, Harry suddenly asked.
“I believe I do, Harry”, Dumbledore answered. “But I do not know if I should tell you.”
“We have the right to know”, Cedric said. “If that was really You-Know-Who out there, he transported us to that graveyard for a reason. We want to know what it is.”
Dumbledore nodded. “Very well. It is my belief that Voldemort was planning on recreating his body tonight.”
“How?”, Harry asked. He wasn’t really surprised.
Cedric on the contrary was looking at his headmaster with his mouth wide open. “Why did he need us?”
“Not as much you, Cedric”, Dumbledore answered. “I think he only intended to transport Harry to that graveyard tonight, but seeing as you so admirably worked together until the very end, you were transported there too.”
“But why did he want me?”, Harry asked.
“There is an old dark ritual. I have heard from it before, but how it really works, I do not know. It’s been known to help dark wizards who have in one way or another been banished from their corporeal form to recreate their bodies. It requires three main substances. Bone of the father, flesh of the servant and blood of the enemy.”
“He needed my blood”, Harry realized. “And I saw a tombstone on that graveyard with Voldemort’s name on it. Was that his father?”
“Indeed”, Dumbledore said. “And I believe Peter Pettigrew was in charge of the last substance, flesh of the servant. He would probably have needed to cut off a body part.”
Cedric shuddered. “But his plan didn’t work then”, he said. “He won’t come back?”
Harry looked at Dumbledore. “This time his plan failed indeed. But he will not give up after one failed attempt, I am afraid. He has gained a lot of strength the way I hear it and you can be sure that the man or woman who posed so successfully as Alastor Moody for the entire year will have joined his master by now, along with a lot of other old Death Eaters.”
Harry and Cedric looked at each other uncomfortably. Dumbledore smiled at them. “I do not think it is wise to worry too much about it right now. We have been gotten on quite a side track, but I believe congratulations are in order. You both have won the Triwizard Tournament! You could have brought no higher honour to Hogwarts. I am extremely proud of you, especially of the unity you have showed throughout the Tournament. Now let us go down for the ceremony. Your friends and class mates will be waiting impatiently.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the winners of the Triwizard Tournament, both from Hogwarts: Harry James Potter and Cedric Jasper Diggory!”, the magically enforced voice of Ludo Bagman shouted.
Harry and Cedric were met by a standing ovation by the Hogwarts staff and students. They both grinned at each other before they walked forward and raised the Triwizard Cup above their heads. After a dull speech from Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, Harry and Cedric both got a bag of money pushed into their hands and were pulled of the podium again.
Harry was making his way through the crowd looking for his friends, which wasn’t easy to do. Everyone wanted to congratulate him and shake his hand.
“Harry!”, he heard a familiar voice shout. He turned and around and was suddenly surrounded by Weasleys. They were all hugging him and in the sea of red hair, he also spotted a bushy brown-haired witch.
When they released him, he grinned broadly and said: “So you were rooting for me!”
They all laughed and headed back to the castle. The evening passed in a blur. Harry was overwhelmed by all the congratulations he got and all the hands he had to shake. Finally he got some rest and he sat in the Gryffindor common room with Ginny, Hermione and Ron. He finally told them everything that happened after he and Cedric disappeared from Hogwarts and they were looking positively shocked.
“And Dumbledore thinks he will be successful next time?”, Hermione asked looking dead worried.
“Well, some time. He does think he won’t try to get to me again, because I’m too well protected apparently”, Harry answered. “He needs the blood of an enemy, but I guess he could use pretty much any witch or wizard for that. I mean, who doesn’t hate Voldemort?”
Shortly after that Ron and Hermione went to bed and Harry and Ginny stayed behind. Ginny was looking rather pale and hadn’t said much since Harry told them everything.
“You okay?”, he asked.
“Yeah sure”, she answered. “It’s just, you could have been killed! What would I have done?”
Harry chuckled. “Come here, Ginny.” She snuggled into his arms and he pulled her close to him. “I’m not planning on going anywhere”, he whispered. “You’re going to have to put up with me for a very long time.”
Ginny giggled and gave him a soft kiss on his lips. “You’d better”, she whispered back and she fell slowly asleep in his arms.
“Another year at Hogwarts has passed and a very eventful year at that”, Dumbledore spoke to the assembled Great Hall. The Hall was decorated in the scarlet and gold colours of Gryffindor and the yellow-black from Hufflepuff. For the first time in 250 years two houses shared the first position for the House Cup, thanks to the spectacular performances in the Triwizard Tournament. “First of all, I would like to congratulate our two school champions once more, who have won the Triwizard Cup for Hogwarts. Can I please have an applause for Harry Potter and Cedric Diggory!”
All of the students got to their feet and gave Harry and Cedric a standing ovation. They were both watching a bit shyly. After awarding the House Cup to Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, Dumbledore opened the feast.
Harry grew more silent as he thought about the next day and the weeks that would follow. He would be returning to the Dursleys and that seemed to be even harder than the other years. Harry hoped that he would be able to live with Sirius now that Wormtail had been caught, but that wouldn’t happen soon. Dumbledore had convinced Cornelius Fudge to hold a full trial against Peter Pettigrew, but that wasn’t planned until July 24th. Almost a month from now. But Ron already assured him that he would be able to stay at The Burrow again for at least part of the summer. Harry already looked forward to that time, not in the least because of Ginny. Her parents still didn’t know that they were a couple, Ginny was afraid they might think she was too young to date, but at least he would be able to spend time with her then.
When he got off the Hogwarts Express the next day he was more gloomy than ever.
“Oh, come on, Harry”, Hermione said, looking at him worriedly. “It’s not that long. We’ll see you sooner than you think.”
“Yeah mate”, Ron agreed. “We’ll get you out of that Muggle hole as fast as we can.”
“I just don’t understand why I have to go back every year”, Harry mumbled. Ginny smiled at him and gave his hand a squeeze.
“Dunno, mate”, Ron shrugged. “I overheard mom asking Dumbledore if you could come straight to The Burrow after the third task, but he said it was important you returned.”
They passed the passage of Platform Nine and Three Quarters and appeared in King’s Cross Station.
“Well”, Harry said. “I’ll see you guys later then.”
Ginny and Hermione both kissed him on the cheek and hugged him tightly. Even Ron gave him a brief manly hug. “Take care, mate.
“Write us, Harry”, Hermione said.
“We’ll see you soon”, Ginny whispered somberly.
Harry managed a smile, waved and headed over to the Dursleys who were waiting impatiently. He certainly didn’t look forward to the following weeks, but he knew he would eventually go back home.
"A winner is a dreamer who never gives up" - Nelson Mandela
9 It Happened
Cornelius Fudge walked from his office to the Atrium in the Ministry of Magic. He was extremely tired. The Triwizard Tournament was finally over, but instead of lessening, the working pressure seemed to keep getting higher. There was Dumbledore’s constant warnings about He Who Must Not Be Named gaining strength. Fudge knew better than to not take Dumbledore’s opinion seriously. He was after all an extremely powerful wizard and a highly respected member of the wizarding community. Fudge shuddered if he thought about the possibility of the Dark Lord returning. Not only would his people be in grave danger and would a second wizarding war be inevitable, there was also a chance that his greatest secret would come out into the open. A secret that would most certainly cost him his job, and his job was worth more to him than he cared to admit. Above all that, there was still no sign of Bartemius Crouch, the head of the Department of International Magical Cooperation, who had disappeared months ago.
Fudge sighed, looked at his watch and saw it was already 11 o’clock in the evening. He would get another lecture from his wife, who thought he was spending far too much time at the office. But as Minister for Magic he didn’t really had a choice in the matter. Ill-tempered, he made his way through the deserted building. Rufus Scrimgeour, the Head of the Auror Office had decided the Ministry wasn’t protected well enough and had made sure that it was impossible to Floo into the Ministry outside of the Atrium. Even the fireplace in his own office was unusable.
When he arrived in the Atrium he wasn’t surprised it was empty too, though it did strike him as odd that he didn’t see the night guard. He decided to take a look at his desk that was located right in front of the visitor’s entrance. When he looked behind the counter his heart stopped for a second. Eric Munch, who had been working as a receptionist and night guard for the Ministry for nearly 30 years lay on his back on the ground, his open eyes staring at nothing. Fudge looked at his lifeless body and realized he must’ve been the victim of the killing curse. That must mean there were intruders in the building.
Fudge quickly turned around and found himself staring at the tip of a wand.
“That’s impossible”, Fudge muttered, staring at the man in front of him. “You’re dead!”
Barty Crouch Jr looked at him with a deranged smile on his face. “Now now, Minister. You must have me confused with my father. Very important and respected man he was, but that didn’t stop me from killing him like a dog in the street.”
He spoke so calmly and matter of factly about killing his father that Fudge felt a shiver go down his spine. “What do you want from me?”, he asked him. “It was 16 years ago. I was a fool! Don’t do anything you’ll regret.”
Crouch grinned. “You’re coming with me Fudge”, he said. “But first you will very slowly take out your wand and put it on the ground.”
Fudge did as he said but tried to outsmart the man in front of him. “Stupe – “
“Expelliarmus! Dear dear, still not much of a dueller aren’t you. And that’s what they chose as Minister for Magic?” Crouch was laughing out loud. “Crucio!”
Crouch grabbed Fudge and took him to the telephone booth that functioned as visitor’s entrance. When they were outside, he grabbed Fudge’s arm firmly and turned around, disapparating. When Fudge opened his eyes he didn’t really register what he saw. After a minute he realized they seemed to be on a graveyard. What on earth was Crouch planning with him? And then he remembered what Dumbledore told him after the third task of the Triwizard Tournament. “No”, he muttered. “No. you’re mad! It won’t work!”
“Silence him”, a high pitched voice said.
Crouch threw Fudge onto a tombstone, bound him against it and put a scarf in his mouth. After using the bones of Tom Riddle Senior, chopping off his own hand and stealing Fudge’s blood, the ritual was complete. Fudge was looking with terror in his eyes as Lord Voldemort rose out of the cauldron.
“No”, he thought. “This can’t be happening.”
“Good evening, Cornelius”, Voldemort sneered. “It has been so long. Are you not happy to see me? We are old friends after all.”
Tears were leaking down Fudge’s cheeks when he looked at the monster he once called his master.
“Or at least we were, until you decided to take your chance”, Voldemort laughed, a high, cruel, humourless laugh. “How did you ever think you could take my place, Cornelius? How could you ever think that a pathetic, little excuse for a wizard like you could beat Lord Voldemort, the greatest wizard that ever walked this earth? Crucio!”
Fudge couldn’t scream, but he was groaning and moaning in pain. This pain was so much worse than the pain that was inflicted by the Cruciatus Curse Crouch threw at him. This was pain he had never felt before. He had been tortured by the Dark Lord during his time as a Death Eater, but either he had forgotten how much it hurt or Voldemort was even more powerful and more vicious than he was before. Fudge lost track of how long he lie there, drifting in and out of consciousness as Voldemort kept torturing him. When he opened his eyes once more he realized he had to have been unconscious for a longer time now. He saw there were more people on the graveyard. People wearing black robes and hoods and masks. They were all bowing deeply for their master. The Death Eaters had returned.
“Ah Cornelius, I see you are back with us”, Voldemort said. “I truly appreciate all of your help on this festive night, but I think you are no longer of any need for us now. Barty, if you please?”
Crouch grinned broadly as he put his wand up to the skies. “Morsmordre!”
Fudge watched in terror as for the second time in a year he saw the dreaded mark appear in the skies. The mark he hadn’t seen for so many years and he had hoped to never see again.
“Goodbye Cornelius.” The red eyes were staring cruelly into his victim’s eyes. “Avada Kedavra!”
In a bed in an ordinary Muggle house in the Privet Drive in Little Whinging , Surrey, an almost 15-year old boy sat straight up in bed, panting heavily.
I have to warn Dumbledore. He took his quill and parchment but then he remembered that Dumbledore warned him to be careful when he sent letters with owl post. They couldn’t be sure his mail wouldn’t be intercepted. He knew he had to let his headmaster know about what happened, but how could he if he couldn’t write to him? After a few minutes he scribbled a quick note.
It happened. Contact me asap.
He called over Hedwig, tied the note to her paw and walked her to the window.
“Be quick, Hedwig.”
She hooted soothingly and flew off. Harry looked at the alarm clock next to his bed. Only 6.30h in the morning. He didn’t go back to bed. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep until he received some kind of answer from Dumbledore. He tried to work on the homework he was assigned for the summer, but he kept thinking about his dream. He still hoped it was just a dream, but his common sense said that it really happened. Dumbledore himself had told him last year that the dreams he had about Voldemort were really happening.
About an hour later Harry heard his aunt and uncle get up and make their way downstairs for breakfast. Harry stayed in his room. He had avoided his relatives as much as he could this summer. They seemed to be gladly accepting his behaviour. The presence of their nephew in their house had brought some troubles for them over the last few years. An important business meeting had gone terribly wrong, uncle Vernon’s sister Marge had been blown up by Harry after she insulted his parents and the year before, Mr Weasley had blown up the Dursleys’ fire place.
Suddenly there was a flash and Fawkes the phoenix appeared in Harry’s room. He dropped a letter on Harry’s lap and disappeared with another flash. Harry opened the letter and was extremely relieved when he recognized the handwriting of his headmaster.
I will stop by at Privet Drive later this day. Do not leave the house until I get there. I’ll talk to you in a couple of hours.
The panic Harry had felt since he woke up from his dream seemed to lessen a bit. The knowledge that he would be able to talk to his headmaster in a couple of hours was a huge comfort for him. He raised from his chair, got dressed and made his way downstairs. He realized he would have to tell the Dursleys that Dumbledore would be standing on their doorstep that day. Bracing himself, he made his way downstairs.
“Whatever is going to happen will happen, whether we worry or not” – Ana Monnar
Chapter 10: Grimmauld Place
Harry was sitting on the garden bench of the Dursleys later that morning. He had told his aunt and uncle that Dumbledore would be coming by that day. His aunt didn't seem to care much, but his uncle was furious.
"It's enough we have to take you in!", he had shouted. "We don't need to see any more of your freak friends!"
Then he had sent Harry outside, ordering him to mow the lawn. Harry had finished his chore over half an hour ago, but didn't go back inside. The backdoor was open so he would hear it when the bell rang and he wanted to stay out of the reach of his relatives as long as possible.
He shot up when he heard the bell ring. He waited a minute, but when he saw Dudley running away from the hall as quick as he could, Harry smiled and made his way inside.
"Ah Harry", Dumbledore said calmly when Harry entered the hall. "I believe we need to have a talk. Is there anywhere we can talk in private?", he asked aunt Petunia, who had opened the door. She didn't give any sign that she had heard him.
"Er, we could go upstairs, Professor", Harry said nervously.
"Of course, lead the way Harry." Dumbledore didn't seem the least bit uncomfortable with the inhospitality and rudeness of the Dursleys.
Harry was a bit self-conscious about having his headmaster in his room at Privet Drive, but Dumbledore seemed completely at ease and plumped down on Harry's bed. He looked at Harry and said: "Tell me everything, Harry."
Harry told Dumbledore everything he had witnessed in his dream. He didn't leave out any details and he felt a strange sense of relief wave over him as he finished his story. A huge weight seemed to have disappeared. "Do you think it is the same as my other dreams, sir? Do you think he's really back?"
Dumbledore looked into the green eyes from his favourite student and thought deeply for a moment before he answered: "What do you think yourself, Harry?"
Harry was surprised Dumbledore seemed to value his opinion just as much as his own. "Well... It sure felt the same."
Dumbledore nodded with grief on his face. "Yes, Harry. What you just told me explains a lot. You see, this morning I was called to the Ministry of Magic by the Head of the Auror Office, Rufus Scrimgeour. It was clear intruders had penetrated the Ministry last night. Eric Munch, who had night duty was found dead and only feet away from his body they found a wand. The Aurors believed it to be from the killer who had left it there so his wand wouldn't betray him, but after a quick investigation, they found out the wand belonged to Cornelius Fudge. Prior Incantato made clear the wand wasn't used for the murder of Eric Munch. The last spell detected was a stunning spell, so we know the Minister tried to defend himself. The Aurors interrogated Fudge's wife, but she told him he hadn't come home the night before. It was quite obvious the Minister had been abducted… Or worse."
"This is bad", Harry said.
"I am afraid so", Dumbledore said calmly. "Not only has Lord Voldemort returned, by killing the Minister of Magic, he has made sure that the Ministry is one big mess right now. It is my belief that under normal circumstances, Voldemort would lie low for now. He would not want his return to be known to the greater public as he likes so much to operate in secret. Manipulating and deceiving are only two of his best practices. On the other hand, now that all is chaos at the Ministry, Voldemort will be tempted to strike hard. He is extremely intelligent, but he still is very arrogant. He will want to make sure everyone knows that Lord Voldemort cheated death, that he is indestructible."
Harry felt himself shivering. The passive threat of Voldemort seemed to be floating in the room with them. "What are you going to do, Professor?"
"All I can, Harry", Dumbledore answered. "Back when Voldemort was at large the first time I founded a secret society. It was called the Order of the Phoenix and it consisted of people who wanted to fight Voldemort and his Death Eaters." He paused. "Your parents were members too, as were Sirius and Remus. My first step will be contacting all of the old members and recruit new members. We can be certain Voldemort will be recruiting new Death Eaters too."
"What about the Ministry?"
Dumbledore sighed. "Much will depend on who the Wizengamot will put forth as new Minister for Magic."
"The Wizengamot?", Harry asked. "Aren't there elections in the wizarding world?"
"Yes there are, but we won't have those for a long time, I'm afraid. By unexpected retirement or death of a Minister, the Wizengamot puts forward a Minister ad interim. Other witches or wizards who wish to stand for election have ten weeks to put their names forward. Only then the magical community votes."
Harry once again realized that even after four years in the wizarding world, there was still so much he didn't know.
"For now, Head Auror Scrimgeour is keeping everything under control at the Ministry", Dumbledore continued. "I will have to talk to him about Voldemort's return."
"Will he believe you?", Harry wondered. "I mean, I don't think a dream of a 15-year old boy is going to be sufficient evidence for the Auror office."
Dumbledore smiled. "I will not mention your dream, Harry. I do not think it wise for too many people to know about your connection with Voldemort. By the way, Harry, do not be alarmed if that connection intensifies. Now that Voldemort is back among the living, I expect you to have a lot more of those dreams now." He looked at Harry as if he was thinking of something. "Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for you to learn Occlumency."
"It will allow you to protect your mind from any attack of others", Dumbledore explained. "Voldemort is a very accomplished Legilimens. It means he can penetrate the minds of his victims", he added when he saw Harry's confused look. "But I will talk about this with you later. I will make arrangements for you to leave this place in the course of this week. I think two weeks should be sufficient."
"I will explain it to you later, Harry. I really need to go back to the Ministry now."
Headmaster and student descended the stairs together. Dumbledore lifted his hat at the Dursleys, who were peering at them through the window in the kitchen door. His eyes were twinkling brightly. When he walked out the door he turned around and said: "I will see you later this summer, Harry." He shook his hand and smiled. Harry watched his favourite Professor walk away. He looked hilariously out of place in the very normal Muggle suburb. When Harry blinked, Dumbledore had disappeared.
Harry spent the following days waiting impatiently for someone to come and get him. When uncle Vernon came into his room on Thursday night and informed Harry aunt Petunia, Dudley and himself wouldn't be home that evening, Harry merely shrugged. It didn't make that big of a difference if his relatives were or were not home. Harry only saw them during meals, the rest of the day he spent in his room.
Harry lay on his back, reading Flying with the Cannons for the fourth time when there was a knock on his door. He hadn't heard anyone come home or enter the house. It couldn't be someone from his family, they would never knock before entering his room. He jumped of his bed and pointed his wand at the door. "Who's there?"
"Remus John Lupin, werewolf and former Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher of Hogwarts, who thought you, Harry, to perform a Patronus that takes the form of a stag."
Harry quickly walked to the door, threw it open and saw Remus Lupin beaming at him. "Remus!", he exclaimed and hugged his former Professor. "Sorry about that."
"Don't mention it, Harry. You were right to be cautious", Remus said. "Now Mad-Eye will have my skin if I don't make sure you're not an imposter so, which creature did I have in my office the first time you visited me at Hogwarts?"
"Er, a Grindylow, right?", Harry said.
"Very good", Remus smiled. "Now let me help you pack your things. The others are waiting downstairs."
"Yes, the Advance Guard. We were assigned by Dumbledore to escort you to headquarters", Remus explained.
"Headquarters? You mean of the Order of the Phoenix?", Harry asked.
"Oh of course", Remus said. "Dumbledore must already have told you about it."
"So we won't be going to The Burrow?"
Remus couldn't help but smile. "I'm afraid not, Harry. But all the Weasleys are staying at the headquarters over the summer too, so you'll feel at home."
"Where is it?", Harry asked.
"Better not to mention that here", Remus said. "But it's well hidden and Dumbledore performed the Fidelius Charm so you will be perfectly safe."
Harry nodded. He grabbed his trunk and Hedwig's cage and made his way downstairs together with Lupin. When they arrived in the kitchen, Harry was greeted by a big group of witches and wizards, all of them carrying a broomstick with them.
"I believe you have already met Alastor Moody", Remus said.
Moody nodded. "Evening, Potter."
"This is Kingsley Shacklebolt and the colourful young witch next to him is Nymphadora Tonks", Remus continued. "They both work for the Ministry of Magic as Aurors." They both nodded and smiled at Harry, who did the same. Remus continued to introduce the other members of the Order of the Phoenix to Harry: Dedalus Diggle, Hestia Jones, Emmeline Vance, Sturgis Podmore and Elphias Doge.
"Alright everyone, enough chitchat", Moody said bluntly. "Let's go."
The others followed him outside and got on their brooms and got off. Harry followed Tonks' tail. At first he was enjoying the freedom of flying again after being stuck at Privet Drive for almost three weeks. After flying for a couple of hours, he started to long for their arrival though. He was absolutely freezing, he had never been this cold on a broomstick.
Finally Tonks was lowering and eventually they landed on a forlorn square. Harry wondered where on earth they were when Moody motioned him over. "Read this", he grumbled and he pushed a piece of parchment in Harry's hand. "Memorize it." Harry looked at the parchment and saw the familiar handwriting of Albus Dumbledore.
The headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix are located at number twelve Grimmauld Place, London.*
When Harry thought about the words he saw and old house had appeared and they all hurriedly made their way inside.
"They probably already started the meeting", Lupin whispered. "You go straight upstairs, Harry. You're sharing a room with Ron. It's on the first floor, second door to the right."
Harry nodded and made his way upstairs. When he opened the door Lupin had sent him too, he heard two squeals and a body smaller than his hit him rock-hard.
"Ginny", he murmured and pulled his girlfriend even closer to him. He buried his head in her red hair and inhaled the soft flowery scent he had missed so much. "I missed you", he whispered. "I missed you so much." Ginny looked up at him smiling happily and kissed him deeply.
"Oh for Merlin's sake, Ronald. You said you were okay with them being together!"
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I want to see my little sister and my best mate snog each other in front of my eyes!"
Harry couldn't help but grin when he looked over Ginny's head and saw his two best friends bickering. He realized he had even missed that.
"Hermione! I didn't know you'd be here", Harry said happily as he finally let go of Ginny.
Hermione smiled at him. "Ron wrote me you would be arriving today. I convinced my parents to let me stay here for two weeks, so I'll be here for your birthday. But then I have to go back." She walked over to her best friend and hugged him. "How are you?"
"I'm fine", he said.
"So what exactly happened, mate?", Ron asked.
"You don't know what's happening?"
"Not a clue", he said, while Harry and Ginny went to sit down on the unused bed. "One day dad comes home from work and tells us Fudge was killed and that You-Know-Who was back. Next thing we know they tell us they were joining the Order of the Phoenix and we moved in here."
Harry told his friends everything about the dream he had and the talk he had with Dumbledore. They were looking terrified. It seemed to Harry that they hadn't fully realized Voldemort had really returned until they heard Harry confirm it.
Harry enjoyed being able to talk and laugh with his friends again until they waited for Mrs Weasley to call them down for dinner.
* Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 3: The Advance Guard by J.K. Rowling